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What Do Vegetarians Eat?

Updated on August 5, 2010


There are many different categories of vegetarianism because there are many different reasons that people choose an alternative diet.  Whether you choose a Su Vegetarian diet, Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian diet or Vegan diet depends on why you are excluding certain foods.  Generally speaking, people choose a diet for reasons including health, ethics, environment, religion, culture, aesthetics, allergies and economics.  I've broken down the definitions of the various vegetarian diets below.

Ovo-Lacto Vegetarianism

The ovo-lacto vegetarian is the most common category of vegetarian and is usually simply referred to as vegetarian.  Ovo-lacto vegetarians do not eat meat.  They don't eat fish, crustaceans, poultry or red meat.  The "ovo-lacto" qualification in the title means that they do eat other animal products such as eggs and milk products. 

Lacto Vegetarianism

Lacto Vegetarianism is very similar to ovo-lacto vegetarianism.  The only difference is that lacto vegetarians don't eat eggs.  To be clear, lacto vegetarians don't eat any animal flesh or eggs, but they do eat milk products.

Ovo Vegetarianism

As you've probably already deduced, ovo vegetarians don't eat any animal flesh or milk products, but they do eat eggs.


As the vegan diet becomes more mainstream, the distinction from vegetarianism is more clear.  However, I still come across quite a few people who don't know what vegans eat and don't eat.  Vegans do not eat any animal flesh or animal products, such as eggs or milk.  There is some debate in the vegan community on whether honey is included in the vegan diet.

Raw Veganism

The raw vegan diet includes only fresh, uncooked vegetables and fruit, nuts and seeds.  Raw vegans do not eat any animal meat or products.


Fruitarians do not eat any animal products or flesh.  The fruitarian diet includes only fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds that can be collected without harming the plant that produced them.

Su Vegetarianism

This vegetarian diet is mostly followed by Buddhists.  Su vegetarians do not eat any animal flesh or products and also exclude vegetables in the allium family, such as onions, garlic, scallions and leeks.

Some people identify as vegetarians, but still eat fish and/or poultry.  Strictly speaking, a vegetarian diet excludes all meat by definition.  There are probably a lot of reasons for this mistake in labels but a more accurate term for this diet is semi-vegetarian.

Vegetarianism is usually associated with diet but many vegetarians do not use or purchase any product that is tested on animals or comes from an animal, such as skin or fur.  Many animal-friendly brands will advertise that they don't test their products on animals.

I've included some great resources below, for different perspectives on the vegetarian diet.  If you still have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section and I'll do my best to answer.


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      Jo 7 years ago

      I have always wondered what vegetarians eat!

      Thanks for explaining. The amazing thing is once i found your hub i came across this great website called Vegetarian Newbie . I joined their free newsletter and recieve a free report .

      Another great resource

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      Mmmeg 7 years ago

      "There is some debate in the vegan community on whether honey is included in the vegan diet."

      No, there isn't. That's ridiculous.

      The Vegan Society -- the founders of veganism, and therefore the authority on veganism -- defined veganism as:

      "Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and any other purpose."

      Are bees animals? Yes, they are. And in some of their definitions they also specifically mention honey as a no-no. There's only "debate" among ignorant people that don't seem to get that insects are animals, too, or people who want to cling to some trendy vegan title when it doesn't apply. These are the same sort of people who call themselves vegetarian and then eat chicken and fish. If you eat intentionally and knowingly honey, you're not vegan, period.

      Also, note again The Vegan Society definition. Veganism is not a diet. It is a philosophy that informs many choices, including but definitely not limited to one's diet.

      As for "semi-vegetarians", that makes as much sense as "semi-vegetarians" that eat beef. Eating more, smaller animals doesn't bring you closer to vegetarianism.